David Garcia listens to music as he enjoys the afternoon near the pond in William Land Park across from the Sacramento Zoo on June 2, 2014. The City Council is poised to approve a deal that would bring free Wi-Fi to Land Park and 26 other parks in Sacramento. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com
David Garcia listens to music as he enjoys the afternoon near the pond in William Land Park across from the Sacramento Zoo on June 2, 2014. The City Council is poised to approve a deal that would bring free Wi-Fi to Land Park and 26 other parks in Sacramento. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

City Beat

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City Beat

Free Wi-Fi planned in many Sacramento parks as City Council approves Verizon deal

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

June 06, 2017 04:28 PM

UPDATED June 07, 2017 05:36 PM

You’ll soon be able to hop onto free Wi-Fi at a neighborhood park and enjoy super-fast cellular coverage from Verizon in many parts of the city of Sacramento.

The City Council unanimously approved a contract with Verizon on Tuesday that allows the telecom giant to place small cell towers on 101 utility poles – an agreement that will cost the city an estimated $2 million in potential lease payments over the next 10 years. Verizon also can piggyback on miles of the city’s system of conduit to expand its fiber-optic network and take advantage of a quicker permitting process to use city-owned infrastructure.

In exchange, Verizon has agreed to place free Wi-Fi in Land Park, McKinley Park and 25 yet-to-be determined parks around Sacramento. It will place digital kiosks generating free Wi-Fi service along K Street and in other parts of the city, and provide the technology to support a more modern system of traffic signals. The company also will provide dozens of internships to young people over the next five years.

Verizon’s total investment in the city is estimated at more thwifan $100 million, city officials said.

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In approving the contract, the City Council bypassed a procedure that requires the city to release major agreements 10 days before a vote. The agreement with Verizon was posted five days before the vote.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who spearheaded the agreement, said the city must “be willing to take reasonable risks if those risks are consistent with serving the public interest.”

“We can’t continue to do things the old way and expect that we’re going to transform,” the mayor said.

The contract with Verizon was criticized by anyComm, a communications company with offices in El Dorado Hills, Gold River and San Jose. AnyComm is partnering with Siemens to propose its own wireless network and partnership with the city of Sacramento.

AnyComm and Siemens wrote in an email to city officials they have been discussing their plan since January. The companies said their Wi-Fi system would be stronger and their agreement would include profit sharing with the city. The companies said they were troubled the City Council would “circumvent” its 10-day rule and approve an agreement just a few days after it was made public.

“I think you should urge caution before signing a contract,” anyComm founder and CEO Rob Praske told the council. “We were hoping we’d have the opportunity to present an alternative.”

AnyComm and Siemens had not filed a formal proposal with the city as of Tuesday.

Maria MacGunigal, the city’s chief information officer, said the City Council was urged to waive the 10-day waiting period because the city faces a Monday deadline to apply for a federal transportation grant, and the agreement with Verizon would help land that grant.

She added that the council voted on the item because the City Council goes on summer recess later this month.

“There is some sense of urgency,” she said. “We want to get this deal moving and we think it’s a good deal for the city.”

The fiber-optic network planned by Verizon would cost the city $30 million to build itself, MacGunigal said. She said the contract does not exclude other carriers from placing small cell towers on city utility poles and that the number of poles being granted to Verizon is just a fraction of the 30,000 in the city’s network.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis